Rory was so young when Kevin’s body was found.
I’d been talking with him throughout the months of his Dad’s disappearance – trying to be open and honest with him.
I had conversations you would never envision having with a six-year-old.
Weeks after the funeral, I could barely keep my head above water. I was self employed and trying to get life back to normal. I realized there were two things I needed to do: get a job, and find support for Rory.
I knew that I didn’t have the language or understanding of a child’s grief, to be able to support Rory through this unimaginably difficult time.
It was important to me that Rory should have a chance to work through his grief. I didn’t want him to shut down, or stifle his feelings. I thought of the future – the challenges of simply growing up – and didn’t want those struggles to be compounded by unresolved grief.
I wanted Rory to have space and time to explore his feelings. And for him to connect with other kids who’d gone through a similar experience – to feel normal, like he wasn’t alone.
Late one night, when Rory was in bed, I sat down at the computer to search for something related to children and grief. It needed to be local, focused on death (as opposed to grief as a result of divorce or illness), and it needed to be something I could afford.
I Googled multiple times, I think in part because I was shocked that Pilgrims Hospice was the only organization in Edmonton I could find, that offered such a program.
Searching for: “children grief Edmonton” brought me to Pilgrims Hospice’s Expressive Arts for Grieving Children program. As it turned out, a new group was set to begin in the next couple of weeks. I was so happy. It felt right.
That first night was pretty intense in the Parents’ Group, as we each told our stories. It was clear to me that not only were we there as parents, trying to support our grieving children, but we were wrapped up in a ton of grief ourselves.
I remember one of the other Mom’s commented:
“I thought that my story was the worst possible story. Then I hear other people’s stories.”
There was a lot of grief and pain in that room. There was also a lot of support and understanding. It was good to see the other participants’ kids and know that we were all on a journey that we could conquer.
As Rory says now, his biggest challenge at the time was:
“Just acknowledging that I was never going to see or speak to my Dad again”.
The Expressive Arts program was “kinda exciting” for him. “I met new people and did new things centered around grief. We all had something in common.”
In our day-to-day life, Rory was not that communicative. But at Pilgrims Hospice, he came out of his shell. I think it was important to him to share, to show off things from his Dad. He felt like he was part of something, another kind of community.
The ripple effects of death can extend so far outward, and I am so glad the programs at Pilgrims Hospice include children.
With the help of Pilgrims Hospice, we both have tools to sort through painful stuff in our life – whatever it is. We are better at sharing our feelings and communicating because of it.
I will always be so grateful to Pilgrims Hospice. Their eyes are not only on the dying but also on the living.
– Patty Milligan, and son Rory